Mobile device theft is a crime wave that continues to gain momentum. Last year, smartphone thefts were up 23% from the previous year. The crime rate has risen as thieves have increased their boldness to secure their stolen goods. Mobile phone thefts have progressed from thieves grabbing phones right out of people's hands to criminals murdering people to steal their smartphones.
Criminals want the hardware. A $200 phone in the United States will sell for up to $2000 in Hong Kong or Brazil. With enormous profit margins like this, the stolen smartphone industry overseas has grown into a $30 billion industry , rivalling the drug trafficking trade. Criminals are also after the personal information stored on mobile devices. There is no easier way to steal personal data than to physically capture the very device that the data is stored on.
Lawmakers, device manufacturers, and companies are working on reducing the crime rate. Recently, the California Senate approved SB 962, a bill that would require phones sold in CA to have a kill switch, disabling the phone once it's reported as stolen. Similarly, phone manufacturers have introduced theft activation locks that would render a smartphone useless if it is stolen. Also, companies now have the ability to remotely wipe stolen or lost devices. However, mobile devices are still being stolen at an alarming rate.
As users, what can we do to ensure we don't fall victim to this crime? We must be vigilant about where we are and what we do in those locations. If you need to walk alone, remove your headphones so that you can hear any movement around you. Don't display your mobile device in public unless absolutely necessary. Don't leave your phone or tablet unattended, whether it's in a grocery store cart, on a restaurant table, or your desk at school or work.
These basic safety measures can eliminate opportunities for criminals and drive down the crime rate. Not only can we protect our mobile devices by exercising caution and vigilance, but most importantly, we protect ourselves.